The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people’s health and livelihoods forced us to take swift action. Changes to the access and parking arrangements in the city centre were necessary to allow social distancing and to help support York’s economy. However, we understood that increased pedestrianisation of parts of York would affect some businesses, disabled people and residents living in the city centre, and were aware that we needed an understanding of the impact.
Our priority has been limiting the spread of coronavirus and supporting residents most at risk, both from the virus and the impact of lockdown, while doing everything we can to protect livelihoods. This is set out in our Economic Recovery - Transport and Place Strategy.
See further details of the ongoing conversations relating to Blue Badge areas in York city centre:
- The impact of pedestrianisation
- Engagement results
- Progress we've made
- Access beyond the footstreets
- Staying informed
The impact of pedestrianisation
Until last year, Blue Badge holders could access and park on some streets within the pedestrianised areas (footstreets) of York city centre.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic we:
- removed this access to allow social distancing, and to help support York’s economy
- extended the time that vehicles cannot enter footstreets (restrictions varied when the hospitality sector was forced to close, due to coronavirus restrictions).
As there was no time to consult when the changes were initially put in place, we drew on feedback from previous consultation, and put some alternative arrangements in place.
To understand the impact of the changes we:
- spent the summer and autumn of 2020 listening to disabled people, advocacy groups and businesses
- held online and offline surveys, meetings with advocacy groups
- ran an online workshop
- used the outcome of surveys, and feedback from city centre businesses (available on York Open Data), to influence decisions made by councillors and council officers
- created an open community brief to explore the different perspectives, challenges and potential solutions
In addition to our engagement work we commissioned Disabled Motoring UK to undertake an independent review of York's disabled access offer to further inform our decision making.
We've used the results of our engagement work to develop recommendations which try to balance the different views revealed about pedestrianisation of parts of York.
There is broad support for the benefits of pedestrianisation:
- a majority of disabled residents agree the space and lack of vehicles makes footstreets safer
- smoother surfaces and a lack of vehicles are appreciated by blind and partially sighted and older people
- the business community supports the changes to the footstreets, viewing the changes as vital for many hospitality businesses to continue trading
Some of the key issues highlighted include:
- alternative measures put in place were not seen as an adequate replacement for parking spaces lost due to the changes
- the shuttle service and single drop off from Monk Bar was unpopular, viewed as inadequate, and was removed after Christmas 2020
- extra Blue Badge parking at 5 locations on the edge of the footstreets is welcomed, but not seen a substitute compared to what's been lost, either in location or volume
- issues with the types of parking space, the design of multi-storey car parks and the quality of surfaces
- a lack of rest points and accessible toilets
- the availability of accurate and in-depth information to aid journey planning
Footstreet restrictions are seen as having a negative impact on some retailers who increasingly rely on frequent deliveries. The evening extension is popular with some sectors and traders but not with others. The evening hours are very important to many of the pavement café license holders, many of which intend to use the outdoor space all year round. But this leaves many retailers waiting long hours before being able to access their premises by car.
While some wider issues pre-date the changes to the footstreets, the consultation process offers an opportunity to address them.
Progress we've made
There was a meeting of the council’s Executive on Thursday 26 November 2020 and it was decided to:
- keep temporary footstreet arrangements and temporary blue badge arrangements until September 2021
- take the next step to make some of the changes permanent after September 2021
- consider how to address wider accessibility issues
Access beyond the footstreets
Our engagement work around Blue Badge areas in York city centre has identified issues which stop some York residents enjoying the city centre, but which are not related directly to the footstreets area.
As such, the council's Executive Members have agreed a complete review of the city centre’s car parking and disabled access, looking at:
- a full review of the Shopmobility offer
- a study to look at a city centre shuttle service
- identifying 2 car parks with gold standard disabled access, improved parking spaces and access routes in to the city centre
- a study to look at a delivery hub model for the city centre
This work will be complete in summer 2021, and will also include wide engagement across the city.
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